Citizens, Tofu misozuke is a traditional Japanese delicacy from the Fukuoka district, whose production requires an aging period in miso for up to two years! During that time, the tofu acquires the texture of soft creamy cheese and an intensely savory, umami flavor.
Thanks to the trailblazing pair behind rauom.com – God bless them for sharing this – a recipe that only existed in one Japanese recipe book from the 18th century that they had translated is now available to us all! 🙂
The story goes as follows:
Have you ever had a dish so good that the taste, texture, and smell lingers deep in your senses and settles in your mind? Have you had a dish so complex, so unique, that it teased, then nagged at your memory…for three years?
It just so happened that Oanh Nguyen and Dang Vu were on a trip in Tokyo in a nondescript sake bar, where they tasted Tofu Misozuke, an incredibly creamy and pungent tofu, accompanied with nothing else but sips of sake. The couple returned to the United States and attempted to search everywhere for the tofu, but found quickly that the dish was unheard of in the United States, and rare even in its native Japan.
Haunted by the tofu’s taste and elusiveness, Oanh and Dang set out to re-create the dish themselves. Armed with years of research skills (Oanh got her undergraduate degree in Biology at Harvard while Dang studied at MIT) they scoured recipe sources. Then, Oanh came across a single rare manuscript: 豆腐百珍 / Tofu Hyakuchin / 100 Tofu Delicacies by 何必醇 / Ka Hitsujun, 1782. The description of the dish was towards the end, alongside lesser-known tofu dishes, and the page was scarce with details. Not only was there not much to go off of, but the entire book was written in an ancient Japanese dialect!
Luckily, Oanh had a friend translate the recipe into modern Japanese, and then English. They learned that the tofu, originating from the Fukuoka Prefecture, was tofu aged in miso. Oanh and Dang now had a starting point to formulate a recipe.
Construct a Hypothesis
Relying on memory, Oanh and Dang recounted the tofu’s taste and texture, and consulted scientific papers for the dish’s fermentation process.
This is truly vegetarian ambrosia, aged for two months in this recipe – more full of umami than pretty much any other dish I’ve ever tried, in fact! Sadly, the product from rauom.com is no longer available, but thanks to the gracious open-sourcing of their recipe, you can now try this simple and incredibly delicious recipe for yourselves, Citizens! I’ve added my own touch to the recipe with the optional addition of spicy and numbing Yuzukoshō (柚子胡椒) – a type of paste made from chili peppers, yuzu peel and salt, which is then allowed to ferment.
You won’t hear me say this EVER again – I’d go vegetarian if it meant I could keep eating this!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
16 ounces organic tofu, super-firm or extra-firm
1 cup miso white or yellow (240 g)
2 tbsp sake (TFD note – NOT mirin!)
2 tbsp granulated organic sugar
1 tbsp green Yuzukoshō (柚子胡椒) (optional) – available from Amazon here
1 package cheesecloth
Wrap a tofu block in 2-3 layers of paper towels & set a dish on top of the tofu block and let it dry out for 1-2 hours. Remove paper towels. Dry tofu with a towel and cut in half crosswise so you have two cubes.
Wrap the pressed, dry tofu in two layers of the cheesecloth so it’s a neat package.
Wrap tofu in cheesecloth and smear marinade on all sides. Use ½ the marinade on each block.
Line a storage container with 2-3 layers of paper towels, place tofu block on top, cover and refrigerate.
Change paper towels whenever they become very wet to avoid mold growth – the paper towels will become really wet, yet the tofu will not be any dryer because enzymes in the miso are breaking down the soy proteins and generating water. Chemistry!
That’s it. It takes at least 2 months for a firm tofu block to be creamy on the outside. We usually start eating our way in at that point, leaving the middle to age a little bit more.
After two months, unwrap your “cheese” completely. Store wrapped in waxed paper in the refrigerator in a clean lidded container. Change the waxed paper if it gets too wet. (Or, you can unwrap a corner of the cheese and keep it in the cheesecloth, just removing a portion at a time and re-wrapping it.)